- Odilon Redon
- Vase d'anémones
- Signed Odilon Redon (lower left)
- Pastel on paper
Private Collection, Switzerland
Maharani of Baroda
Galerie Beyeler, Basel
Galerie Rousso, Paris
Marlborough Fine Arts, London
Edward Speelman, London (1955)
Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York
Acquired from the above on December 1, 1956
Rotterdam, Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, Four Centuries of Still Life in France, 1954, no. 105, illustrated in the catalogue pl. 52
London, Marlborough Fine Art, XIXth and XXth Century French Masters, 1955, no. 60, illustrated p. 45
New York, Paul Rosenberg & Co., Paintings and Pastels by Odilon Redon (1840-1916), 1959, no. 26, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, Acquavella Galleries, Odilon Redon, 1970, no. 45, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, Wildenstein & Co., Inc., Masterpieces in Bloom, 1973, no. 54
Alec Wildenstein, Odilon Redon. Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint et dessiné, vol. III, Paris, 1996, no. 1647, illustrated p. 178
Redon first explored the subject of floral still-lifes in the 1860s, but soon turned his attention to the developing Symbolist movement, creating his 'noir' series of drawings and mystical compositions. Having returned to the genre of still-life at the turn of the century, Redon retained the ethereal quality of his previous work. As Richard Hobbs explained: " 'These fragile scented beings, admirable prodigies of light', as he later described them, were providing him with a motif through which to develop the joyful and spiritual transformation of natural forms that is characteristic of so many of his colour works... He associated flowers with a delicate but fundamental kind of artistic expression. Flowers were becoming a theme of primary importance to Redon, both as motifs for experimentation with colour and as the expression of a personal lyricism" (Richard Hobbs, Odilon Redon, London, 1977, p. 139).
The present composition reflects Redon's ability to create lively compositions using contrasting colors and shapes. Although his bouquet is comprised of many kinds of flowers of varying sizes and forms, the overall effect is one of coherence and harmony. Like his contemporary Paul Gauguin, Redon imbued his works with a spiritual quality, declaring: "He who believes that the aim of art is to reproduce nature will paint nothing lasting: for nature is alive, but she has no intelligence. In a work of art, thought must complement and replace life; otherwise you will only see a physical work that has no soul" (quoted in ibid., p. 152). This attitude is combined with a modernist approach to composition, in which the subject of the vase of flowers is set against a neutral background, a style largely influenced by Japanese prints. As in the Japanese woodblocks and screens which became popular in Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century, Redon used the dynamic of positive and negative spaces, patches of bold pigment and strong outlines in order to maximize the impact of his subject.
In this pastel, the bouquet explodes from the vase into a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes. Throughout his career, Redon used a variety of vases, jugs and pitchers, probably acquired at markets in Paris, and used them repeatedly in several compositions (fig. 1). In painting them, he often attempted to harmonize the colors of the vase with those of the flowers, as beautifully exemplified by the present work. Starting from actual objects arranged in his studio, he transformed them into a spiritual composition that appears to bridge the gap between the traditional genre of still-life painting, and Redon's earlier, more mystical 'noir' works.